Democracy and Populism

Democracy and Populism

Fear & Hatred

Book - 2005
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This intensely interesting--and troubling--book is the product of a lifetime of reflection and study of democracy. In it, John Lukacs addresses the questions of how our democracy has changed and why we have become vulnerable to the shallowest possible demagoguery.
Lukacs contrasts the political systems, movements, and ideologies that have bedeviled the twentieth century: democracy, Liberalism, nationalism, fascism, Bolshevism, National Socialism, populism. Reflecting on American democracy, Lukacs describes its evolution from the eighteenth century to its current form--a dangerous and possibly irreversible populism. This involves, among other things, the predominance of popular sentiment over what used to be public opinion. This devolution has happened through the gigantic machinery of publicity, substituting propaganda--and entertainment--for knowledge, and ideology for a sense of history. It is a kind of populism that relies on nationalism and militarism to hold society together.
Lukacs's observations are original, biting, timely, sure to inspire lively debate about the precarious state of American democracy today.

Publisher: New Haven : Yale University Press, c2005.
ISBN: 9780300107739
Branch Call Number: 320.509730904 L954
Characteristics: viii, 248 p. ; 22 cm.


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Oct 17, 2011

Tough book to slog through. The picture on the cover is America, but Lukacs (a expert on historical Hitler) likes to talk about Nazi Germany more. Consequently, the book is more of an international history of democracy, populism, nationalism, socialism, liberalism, conservatism, and the shifting political meanings of Left and Right. In fact, due to his thesis that words only loosely maintain their meanings over time, he never really defines what democracy or populism are, and instead uses example after example of what they are not. I have no clear understanding of these terms after reading the book, except to say that it is complicated.

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